Shadow and the FenceWe’ve lived in our current home for three years now. We have a nice little fenced in back yard, perfect for our dog Shadow. He likes to go out there and run around, bark at who knows what, and just chill.

When we first moved in, we were a little concerned because the fence between our house and our one neighbor is only about three and a half feet high. Shadow is a rather large dog, and we were convinced that if he put his mind to it, he could probably jump the fence. The only hope that we had is that he is a major wuss. We lean short baby gates against door frames to keep him out of certain rooms. He could easily jump them, or even knock them over just by brushing against them, but he never does.

He’s not very smart.

So we figured our back yard was OK. And it was. He would stand up and put his front paws on the top of the fence and bark at the cat next door, but never made any move to jump. If a crazy cat isn’t enough to make him leap the fence, nothing is. But he never jumped the fence.

Now, we’re not so sure.

The other day we went out in the backyard, and there was Shadow. In the neighbor’s yard. Looking at us. Wagging his tale. He even seemed a bit confused. We checked the two gates that lead to the neighbor’s yard, and they were both locked tightly. There doesn’t seem to be any place that a 95-pound chocolate lab could craw under the fence. So either he was teleported over there by aliens, or he jumped the fence.

If he jumped the fence, we could have a problem. And we’ll have to solve the problem. I have no idea how we’ll do that, but we can’t ignore it, or we’ll lose our dog.

And yet that’s what a lot of businesses are doing as they face new problems and new challenges in a world where many of us are living a portion of our lives out online. Social media gives our customers and the general public a voice. It gives them more access to us on a variety of levels.

Sure, you can ignore this. You can pretend that they aren’t saying things about you online, but that doesn’t mean it will go away. I can pretend that Shadow wasn’t over in the neighbor’s yard, but it wouldn’t be true. I have to deal with it, and find a solution that makes everyone happy.

Without thinking it through, there are a number of options, of varying degrees of feasibility:

  • make the fence higher
  • an invisible fence between the yards with a special dog collar
  • hook Shadow to a lead

None of those are great ideas. The first two involve logistics and expenses that certainly aren’t optimal. The third sort of defeats the purpose of having a fenced in yard, and will limit Shadow’s freedom greatly. I don’t want that.

So for the time being, we will keep an eye on him, monitor his behavior, and respond when necessary.

We don’t want to over react, and we certainly don’t want to limit his freedom.

Building a strong social presence online is like building a yard and inviting your customers to bring their conversation into that yard. But when we invite them in, it’s not to control them or limit their freedom.

New problems and new challenges.

Are you ready to deal with them? Or are you more likely to ignore them?